Gary Bloom is an author who’s career I’ve been following for a while. Last year he released his book Olympus Union omnibus: Jovian Wars and this year he’s working on a new exciting project. I’ve been involved in a special panel of his Twitter follwers he set up to bounce ideas off. It was a great experience and then I had the opportunity to interview Gary.
Can you give a brief synopsis of Antares Ascended?
A different star system (I often joke, “in a galaxy far, far away”), an alien empire is struggling with a catastrophic event: the murder of three important royals by Tupan Virachoa, the nephew of Archon Ogan Antares. Based on a prophecy, Tupan believes he deserves the throne. Ogan wants to avenge his wife and brother, but is mindful of perception, and re-sparking the deadly War of Lords which destroyed the population once before.
What inspired you to write a weekly sci-fi series?
Antares Ascended is not precisely weekly. The main story runs monthly. Results, and some play by play, from the Tauran Games – the gladiator competition (and main entertainment of the Empire) will run on other weeks. Depending on what tier folks subscribe to, there is a monthly legend from the mythology, and a profile and interview with on of the fighters, called Feros.
The breakdown in this fashion, instead of a book, came from my own experiences. As you may know, I wrote Olympus Union: Jovian Wars, and I do enjoy writing in novel format. I’m also a big fan of reading novels – both paper and ebook. My trouble over the last year has been time. Working full time, trying to be a good husband and dad, and make time for family and friends… it got strangely difficult to accommodate my love of reading. What hit me most was that I was doing a decent job keeping up on my monthly comic books, but when I’d pick up a trade or compilation to catch up on back issues, it just felt like I was taking forever.
Going into a serial format allows people to keep up on it, as a rolling story, without having it get too deeply in the way. I purposely structure the amount of words to make sure it’s in a comfortable snip, but still allows me room to tell a story. Having written a comic book for about a year, I know that this is actually more content than a comic, but still shouldn’t overwhelm. I also priced out different tiers so that people can control how much content they’re taking on, again with a comic books structure in mind (pricing is similar to most major books these days).
How often will you be releasing new episodes?
Right now, I’m structuring it as I mentioned above: a monthly main story; some play by play from the Tauran games; a monthly mythology and a monthly Fero interview.
Right now, I’m working through some extra ideas, to do a mini series here and there, for short stories. Haven’t decided precisely what it will be, or if it’ll be public or not… but I want to add more content into the world, without causing confusion.
You invited a panel of select people on Twitter to vote on the world building of the series. Do you feel that you benefited from the process if so how?
The panel made a huge difference! When I presented some ideas, I was challenged by a few panelists to explain why, or to elaborate, or in some cases to discard it entirely for lack of cohesion or logic. Running it past folks before I started writing the series forced me to be more mindful. 80% of what I ran past people may never end up in front of the readers, for all I know, but the assumptions of the world beneath drive how I write.
There were ideas for dialogue that I scrapped, some scenarios that I never ended up using because they didn’t make sense any more in the context of the world that was built. There were ideas that I was able to come up with that I’d never considered before, until I’d been forced to rethink parts of the world. That’s some serious impact – and you were one of the panelists, so I thank you for that impact!
Were there times when you really wanted to go one way but the panel voted against it?
At least twice, yes. There were some names that people hated. And, I don’t mean, they kind of didn’t like it… where nearly every single panelist voted against a name, and I had some comments about how awful it was. And then again with the logo recently. I put up the four that I’d had created (two were the same except for font). People seemed to detest the ones that I loved, and overwhelmingly picked the one I least enjoyed… but such a good case was made for it that I couldn’t help but follow.
Now, it’s not to say that I blindly followed the panel. There were a few things that I went my own way with, because I felt strongly about it. The nice thing about the panel was that they let me have conversations – sometimes in the group, sometimes one on one – and after I explained myself, they felt more comfortable with the decision. Most of the time, however, if I’d ask, the panelists would explain their take passionately enough that I’d find an easy time shifting my view.
Earlier this year you rebooted your Olympus Union universe. Does Antares Ascended take part in the same universe?
Not at the moment, but we’ll see. Now, I’ll spoil something for your readers that I trust they would have figured out in 2-3 minutes anyway. As you know, the aliens are called Homyns… and are descended from the mysterious “Travelers” who get referenced from time to time. Those folks who crashed here long ago… they’re Humans. And while we’re in a galaxy far, far away, this is set to happen in the future. So, could they some how cross paths one day? Doubtful, but you never know. Ogan Antares doesn’t seem the type to try and conquer the Olympus Union… oh, but if Tupan wins, all bets are off!
If so, will we see crossovers or an introduction to any of the Olympus Union characters?
The biggest problem right now would be timeline. In Olympus Union, humanity has only made it as far as Jupiter. In fact, the Jovian Wars really screwed up plans for expansion to Saturn. For those who haven’t read it, water is a pretty big part of things, and what happens with Ganymede, and some of the other efforts, really hampers the Olympus Union as a whole.
Considering an underlying tenet of Antares Ascended is the human ancestry, I’d have to be really far along in the OU cycle. Here’s where it can get fun, though. If there were a crossover, it would probably be at least 800 years past where the OU is now, which allows for some amazing transformation. It frees me up to expand beyond the solar system, and possibly send folks looking for those lost travelers. A colony ship, maybe, we’ll see. Now, I’m also a big fan of legacy. Having read a lot of the Dune series, and the old Star Wars extended universe (which leads into your next question), I like that the descendants turn out to matter. Jaina Solo and Jagged Fel were a few favorites in Star Wars, and I’m an Atreides fan. In fact, I’m enough of a fan that I debated changing the name of the ruling family away from Antares, to avoid comparisons. What I’m getting at is, to have someone far down the line from Jones Oden, who conceived the Olympus Union in the first place, setting foot on Doma and challenging the Antares… I could easily see that.
You write science fiction but do you read many science fiction books?
Oh I absolutely read sci-fi, and fantasy as well. The Foundation Trilogy and Stranger in a Strange Land are must reads if you consider yourself a hard core science fiction fan. On the fantasy side, get to Belgariad before you read (or if you enjoyed) Game of Thrones, because you might just decide it’s more interesting. The old Star Wars EU was tough for me to lose. I’ve moved on, and have read some of the new books, especially the two Timothy Zahn just did because, well… Thrawn. Hyperion is an excellent quadrilogy (is that a word? Fine, now it’s a word), and the Quadrail Quintent by Timothy Zahn was a fantastic ride.
There will be a few Dragonlance undercurrents that may pop up in Antares Ascended, mostly because Rastlin Majere is one of the most interesting characters ever invented. I’ve already mentioned my love for the Atreides; recently read Hunters, and am working through the prequels of Dune. If I can plug KJA for a second, he and Mr. Herbert have a trilogy called Hellhole that is a fantastic read which I plowed through.
Glancing over at my little library to see if I missed anything before bringing up my all-time favorite book, Ender’s Game. Credit to my buddy MacKay for making it my favorite, since it spent years as his favorite. I’ve read every single book in the Enders line, including Shadow, prequels, and weird spin-off stuff.
Who is your favourite author and why?
For me, it’s impossible to give you one answer. Let’s start at the top – Michael A Stackpole, a master of character creation and painting an image of battle. If you don’t know the man, and you like Battletech or Star Wars, go read everything he’s done. (My Olympus Union character, Phelan Rand, was my old Star Wars RPG character when I was 14… he’s in honor of Phelan Kell). And then his independent stuff is so on point… “In Hero Years, I’m Dead” is a fantastic ride, and goes into the superhero genre in a way a lot of folks just don’t. Timothy Zahn should just be a known quantity now. If you don’t love his depth of character, I’m truly stunned. I still own the hard covers of the Heir to the Empire trilogy. Refuse to give them up. Manta’s Gift was a brilliant piece of work, the Conqueror’s Saga is must read, and Blackcollar books have made a few plane rides whiz by.
Anyone who’s never read Troy Denning has done themselves a disservice. I could elaborate, but there’s no need – his writing 100% speaks for itself, and I’m glad he’s around. Hopefully he’ll keep writing for another 100 years. If I see Lackey or Weis & Hickman on a book, I’ll generally buy it because I already know the writing will be excellent. Finally, I’ve had a lot of influence from Kevin J Anderson and the Herbert father and son duo. Part of why I started building my world so extensively before writing is because of what these people have majestically done across Dune, Hellhole, and others. The descriptions, the attention to details, just the incredible scale of it all.
Oh! And it would be wrong for me to leave out some of my favorite comic book writers, Grant Morrison, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Snyder, Bendis… you know, that list gets kind of long. You might need to have me back to discuss comic book writers. You’re welcome to have your readers reach out to me on Twitter, to have a conversation about Nightwing, or anything else in DC comics (or X-Men & Star Wars comics), and I’ll do my best to have a quality conversation!